David Terrazas is a freelance photographer originally from Pamplona, Spain, and currently based in Bangkok—he’s been working as a photographer for 15 years and has worked with clients like the New York Times, Surface Mag, Singapore Airlines, W Hotels, and Soho House.
He has a gorgeous portfolio on Behance, full of editorial, fashion, travel, and wildlife photography. But what drew us to into his work recently was a new series called Underneath, in which he turns his lens on insects.
We recently spoke to Terrazas about his work with these tiny “models,” as well as his other projects.
Create: Why bugs? What inspired you to train your camera on something so small—when typically it seems your subjects are people?
David Terrazas: I’ve had the idea of doing a portraiture project of bugs for a few years, but I never put myself into it for one reason or another. Then in March 2020, I self-quarantined due to COVID-19. It wasn’t mandatory in Thailand, where I spend most of my time, but highly recommended, and I thought it would be a good idea to spend a few weeks at home. That was pretty much what triggered this old idea of portraits of insects. I’m glad I did; it kept me immersed in the project and less aware of being quarantined.
Create: How did you find the creatures?
Terrazas: I would like to say I am an expert in insects and found them in the wild; that would definitely sound more romantic. But the reality is I had zero knowledge and bought them from a taxidermy specialist shop. The insects were mostly caught in the north of Thailand by villagers who make their living finding valuables in the forests—from herbs and mushrooms to these little creatures.
Create: How did you shoot the insects?
Terrazas: I created a little studio on my office table at home. That’s the great thing about portraying tiny things: you don’t need a big space or setup. I shot them with a Sony Alpha 7 III, which I use mostly for commercial work rather than my Leicas, which I keep for personal projects—but Leica Rangefinders aren’t designed for macrophotography. Also I had this “extremely sharp” Sony 90mm FE2.8 macro lens, which, paired with an extension tube, I thought would allow me to dive deep into the unusual and amazing features of the subjects. For lighting I used a couple of LED panels. Most of the insects required several photos at different focus points, which were later stacked together. I mostly lit the subjects in the same way I would light a person, because the original idea was to try in a not-too-obvious way to humanize the insects.
Create: What are the big challenges with shooting tiny things?
Terrazas: Definitely moving them for little adjustments in lighting and composition. They are so tiny, light and fragile! Also keeping them free of dust and undesired little hairs which most times aren’t visible with the naked eye.
Create: What did you learn about insects during this shoot?
Terrazas: I was amazed by their features once you admire them close enough. Then I couldn’t help myself; I spent a lot of time on the Internet, reading about their vision capabilities, their hunting strengths and personal body weapons, mating rituals, and so on.
Create: How did you get started with photography?
Terrazas: Through my father. He has always been a photography-book collector, and his love for the field got us both visiting photo exhibitions all around Spain and France pretty much ever since I can remember. At the age of 18, I started studying photography and giving a better use to my 35mm Nikkormat camera, which my father had bought for my mother in the ’70s and which was then passed to me.
Create: Being from Pamplona, Spain—how did you come to live in Bangkok?
Terrazas: Since a young age I’ve always had an urge to explore new places. The more exotic (seen from the eyes of a guy born in a little village in northern Spain), the better. I had wonderful travels in Central and South America, Europe and Asia. Then at the age of 30 I felt that this beautiful place called Thailand could make a good home for a few months. And it’s been ten years since. Bangkok is a perfect spot for me. I keep traveling all around the world both for work and pleasure, and Bangkok’s popular and convenient international airport offers affordable and relatively well-connected routes to most parts of the globe. Not to mention the nature and culture, and the cuisine are amazing. Also, I have almost forgotten what a winter feels like, which is a plus for me.
Create: I suppose I must ask, seeing as how you are from Pamplona: Have you photographed the running of the bulls?
Terrazas: No, I haven’t participated in or photographed that. I never really considered running beside a scared 600-kilogram beast—rather the opposite. I enjoyed watching it from the safer side of the barriers for many years though. I guess one reason I didn’t photograph it is because I moved to Madrid at the same age I fell in love with photography.
Create: You’ve traveled a lot for work—but where do you vacation?
Terrazas: Obviously I love Southeast Asia, and when have a few days for myself I like to travel to countries like Indonesia, Philippines, Vietnam, Myanmar, and many others. I also had a great time in Iceland; it's such a raw beautiful landscape. I’m really looking forward to going back when travel restrictions are lifted. Also, it would be lovely to get to visit Antarctica—maybe one day.
Create: Tell us about your cameras.
Terrazas: I own four cameras at the moment, two 35mm film cameras and two digital, plus a dozen lenses. The Rangefinders Leica M10 and Leica M6, a Nikkormat 35mm Reflex, and a mirrorless Sony A7 III—all fixed lenses except one zoom. Lens brands include Leica, Nikon, Zeiss and Sony. My favorite is the Leica M6. It’s the camera that gives me this raw intricate feel for photography when using it. Seeing the world through its rangefinder is a pleasure, and its shutter sounds gentle and beautiful. The 50mm and 35mm Summicron lenses also feel great. The M10 is second in the list for the same reasons but lacks the mystique of working with 35mm rolls.
Create: What is your postproduction process like?
Terrazas: I shoot a lot of 35mmm film, which requires minimal adjustment, but when I am using my digital cameras, I like to edit my photos, mostly using Lightroom, to achieve a look as close as possible to film. This requires a few tweaks to colors, sharpness, grain, curves, and so on…. I never really got into creating my own presets. I feel like each photo is a different world, so I like to treat them individually. I use Photoshop primarily for commercial work when I need to blend images or manipulate a photo in ways Lightroom isn’t capable of. I have been using a few different filters both for Lightroom and Photoshop for several years now, which have helped me to get closer to that film look I like. But they are never sufficient by themselves, and extra adjustments are always needed in my opinion.
Create: What inspires you?
Terrazas: I am a big film enthusiast. That’s in my genes: both my parents adore cinema, and there is no day they go to bed before watching a film. Music is a fantastic companion when shooting and editing. And of course for dancing when the body and/or soul ask for some moves. Regarding photographers who have inspired me along the years, it may sound a bit cliché but Bresson, Klein, Newton, and Arbus are the ones I always come back to when I want to enjoy a good show.